Welcome To The New Normal: The Dow Crashes Another 390 Points And Wal-Mart Closes 269 Stores

Welcome to the new normalDid you know that 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June?  The worldwide financial crisis that began in the middle of last year is starting to spin wildly out of control.  On Friday, the Dow plunged another 390 points, and it is now down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of this calendar year.  Never before in U.S. history have stocks ever started a year this badly.  The same thing can be said in Europe, where stocks have now officially entered bear market territory.  As I discussed yesterday, the economic slowdown and financial unraveling that we are witnessing are truly global in scope.  Banks are failing all over the continent, and I expect major European banks to start making some huge headlines not too long from now.  And of course let us not forget about China.  On Friday the Shanghai Composite declined another 3.6 percent, and overall it is now down more than 20 percent from its December high.  Much of this chaos has been driven by the continuing crash of the price of oil.  As I write this article, it has dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and many of the big banks are projecting that it still has much farther to fall.

The other night, Barack Obama got up in front of the American people and proclaimed that anyone that was saying that the economy was not recovering was peddling fiction.  Well, if the U.S. economy is doing so great, then why in the world has Wal-Mart decided to shut down 269 stores?…

Walmart (WMT) will close 269 stores around the world in a strategic move to focus more on its supercenters and e-commerce business, the company said Friday.

The closures include 154 U.S. locations, encompassing Walmart’s entire fleet of 102 ‘Express’ format stores, its smallest stores that have been in pilot testing since 2011. Some supercenters, Sam’s Club locations and Neighborhood Markets will also close, plus 115 stores in Latin American markets. The closures were decided based on financial performance and how well the locations fit with Walmart’s broader strategy, says Greg Hitt, a company spokesman.

We have grown accustomed to other major retailers shutting down stores, but this is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart doesn’t retreat.  For decades, Wal-Mart has been on a relentless march forward.  They have been an unstoppable juggernaut that has expanded extremely aggressively and that has ruthlessly crushed the competition.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw that they were going to close down 269 stores.  If you want to know if your local store is in danger, you can view the full list right here.

Overall, 10,000 Wal-Mart employees will be affected.  I could understand closing down a few underperforming stores, but if the U.S. economy truly is in great shape then it wouldn’t make any sense at all to shut down hundreds of stores.

What in the name of Sam Walton is going on out there?

The truth, of course, is that the U.S. economy is in great danger.  We have now entered the next great crisis, but most communities around the country never even recovered from the last one.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a whopping 93 percent of all counties in the United States “have failed to fully recover” from the last recession…

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting to watch.  The economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate, and the financial markets are finally starting to catch up with economic reality.

As the collapse on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to increasingly see panic selling and forced liquidations.  In the past, it was mostly humans that had their hands on the controls during market crashes, but today the machines are making more of the decisions than ever before.  The following comes from CNBC

The new market age is decidedly different: Rather than that seething cacophony, aggressive corrections like the current ones are directed by a faceless metronome of computer-generated orders, triggering irresistible momentum and trillions in losses.

Amid it all, market veterans are left to ponder when the script will flip and market direction will turn not by newfound optimism among traders in the pits, but rather by algorithms that generate “buy” rather than “sell” signals.

It feels like sell program after sell program,” said Michael Cohn, chief market strategist at Atlantis Asset Management, a boutique firm in New York. “It seems to happen first thing in the morning, and then however the market transpires during the day is how they close it. If it looks like it’s coming back, they’ll take it at the end. If if looks like it’s heading lower, they’ll slam it at the end of the day.”

Earlier today, an article authored by Michael Pento entitled “A recession worse than 2008 is coming” was posted on CNBC.  Here is a short excerpt…

But a recession has occurred in the U.S. about every five years, on average, since the end of WWII; and it has been seven years since the last one — we are overdue.

Most importantly, the average market drop during the peak to trough of the last 6 recessions has been 37 percent. That would take the S&P 500 down to 1,300; if this next recession were to be just of the average variety.

But this one will be worse.

If stocks do drop a total of 37 percent, that would just bring them back to levels that would be considered “normal” or “average” by historical standards.  There is certainly the possibility that they could fall much farther than that.

And of course the markets are so incredibly fragile at this point that any sort of a “trigger event” could cause a collapse of epic proportions.

All it is going to take is a major disaster or emergency of some sort.

Do you have a feeling that something really bad is about to happen?  This is something that I have been hearing from people that I respect, and I would like to know if it is a phenomenon that is more widespread.  If you have been feeling something like this, please feel free to share it with us by posting a comment below…

Stock Market Crash 2016: This Is The Worst Start To A Year For Stocks Ever

Stock Market Collapse 2016We have never had a year start the way that 2016 has started.  In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have both posted their worst four-day starts to a year ever.  Canadian stocks are now down 21 percent since September, and it has been an absolute bloodbath in Europe over the past four days.  Of course the primary catalyst for all of this is what has been going on in China.  There has been an emergency suspension of trading in China two times within the past four days, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next.  Eventually this wave of panic selling will settle down, but that won’t mean that this crisis will be over.  In fact, what is coming is going to be much worse than what we have already seen.

On Thursday I was doing a show with some friends, and we were amazed that stocks just seemed to keep falling and falling and falling.  The Dow closed down 392 points, and the NASDAQ got absolutely slammed.  At this point, the Dow and the NASDAQ are both officially in “correction territory”, and some of the talking heads on television are warning that this could be the beginning of a “bear market”.  But of course some of the other “experts” are insisting that this is just a temporary bump in the road.

But what everyone can agree on is that we have never seen a start to a year like this one.  The following comes from CNN

The global market freakout of 2016 just got worse.

The latest scare came on Thursday as China’s stock market crashed 7% overnight and crude oil plummeted to the lowest level in more than 12 years.

The Dow dropped 392 points on Thursday. The S&P 500 fell 2.4%, while the Nasdaq tumbled 3%.

The wave of selling has knocked the Dow down 911 points, or more than 5% so far this year. That’s the worst four-day percentage loss to start a year on record, according to FactSet stats that go back to 1897.

When CNN starts sounding like The Economic Collapse Blog, you know that things are really bad.  I particularly like their use of the phrase “global market freakout”.  I might have to borrow that one.

Even some of the biggest and most trusted stocks are plummeting.  For instance, Apple dropped to $96.45 on Thursday.  It is now down a total of 28 percent since hitting a record high of more than 134 dollars a share back in April.

So that means that if someone put all of their retirement money into Apple stock last April (which may have seemed like a really good idea at that time), by now more than one-fourth of that money is gone.

For months, I have been warning that the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008 were happening again.  To me, the parallels between 2008 and 2015/2016 were just uncanny.  And now other very prominent names are making similar comparisons.  According to the Washington Post, George Soros says that the way this new crisis is unfolding “reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008″…

Influential investor George Soros said that China had a “major adjustment problem” on its hands. “I would say it amounts to a crisis,” he told an economic forum in Sri Lanka, according to Bloomberg News. “When I look at the financial markets, there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”

Don’t get me wrong – I am certainly not a supporter of George Soros.  My point is that we are starting to hear a lot of really ominous talk from a lot of different directions.  All over the world, people are starting to understand that the next great financial crisis is already here.

As I write this tonight, I just feel quite a bit of sadness.  A lot of hard working people are going to lose a lot of money this year, and that includes people that I know personally.  I wish that my voice had been clearer and louder.  I wish that I could have done more to get people to understand what was coming.  I wish that my warnings could have made more of a difference.

I just think about how I would feel if everything that I had worked for all my life was suddenly wiped out.  And that is what is going to end up happening to some of these people.  When you lose everything, it can be absolutely debilitating.

You only make money in the markets if you get out in time.  And unfortunately, most of the general population will be like deer in the headlights and won’t know which way to move.

There will be up days for the markets in our near future.  But don’t be fooled by them.  It is important to remember that some of the greatest up days in U.S. stock market history were right in the middle of the stock market crash of 2008.  So don’t let a rally fool you into thinking that the crisis is over.

The financial crisis that began in the second half of 2015 is now accelerating, and everything that we have witnessed over the past few days is just a natural extension of what has already been happening.

Personally, I am just really looking forward to this weekend when I will hopefully get caught up on some rest.  Plus, my Washington Redskins will be hosting a playoff game on Sunday, and if they find a way to win that game that will put me in a particularly positive mood.

It is good to enjoy these simple pleasures while we still can.  Unprecedented chaos is coming this year, and we are all going to need strength and courage for what is ahead.

7 Percent Crash Causes Emergency Shutdown Of Stock Markets In China For The 2nd Time In 4 Days

Panic ButtonDid you see what just happened in China?  For the second time in four days, a massive stock market crash has caused an emergency shutdown of the markets in China.  On both Monday and Thursday, trading was suspended for 15 minutes when the CSI 300 fell 5 percent, and on both days the total decline very rapidly escalated to 7 percent once trading was reopened.  Once a 7 percent drop happens, trading is automatically suspended for the rest of the day.  I guess that is one way to keep the stock market from crashing – you just don’t let anyone trade.  And of course the panic in China is causing other markets to go haywire as well.  As I write this, the Nikkei is down 324 points and Hong Kong is down 572 points.

The amazing thing is that trading was only open in China for about 15 total minutes tonight.  Here is how CNBC described what just happened…

China’s stocks were suspended from all trade on Thursday after the CSI300 tumbled more than 7 percent in early trade, triggering the market’s circuit breaker for a second time this week.

That drop-kicked stock markets across Asia, which were already wallowing after a weaker open amid concerns over China’s economic slowdown and its depreciating currency as well as falling oil prices.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite tumbled 7.32 percent by at the time of the halt, while the Shenzhen Composite plummeted 8.34 percent. The CSI300, the benchmark index against which China’s new circuit breakers are set, plunged 7.21 percent. If that index rises or falls 5 percent, the market halts all trade for 15 minutes. If it moves 7 percent, trading will be suspended for the rest of the day. In total Thursday, China shares only traded around 15 minutes.

How will European and U.S. markets respond to the chaos in Asia when they open?

That is a very good question.  I think that everybody will be watching.

Already, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down about 500 points for the year.  The financial crisis that began in the second half of 2015 is now accelerating as we enter 2016, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

One key to watch is what happens with the S&P 500.

2000 is kind of like a giant line in the sand on the S&P 500.  On Wednesday we saw the market hover around that psychologically-important number, and there is a whole lot of resistance right there.  If we break solidly through 2000 and start plunging toward 1900, that is going to break things wide open.

The primary reason for the stock market crash in China on Thursday was another stunning devaluation of the yuan.  This explanation from Zero Hedge is very helpful…

Following the collapse of offshore Yuan to 5 year lows and decompression to record spreads to onshore Yuan, The PBOC has stepped in and dramatically devalued the Yuan fix by 0.5% to 6.5646. This is the biggest devaluation since the August collapse. Offshore Yuan has erased what modest bounce gains it achieved intraday and is heading significantly lower once again. Dow futures are down 100 points on the news.

PBOC fixes Yuan at its weakest since March 2011… with the biggest devaluation since August

Yuan Devaluation

A massive devaluation of the yuan was also one of the primary reasons for the market turmoil that we saw back in August.  The Chinese are playing games with their currency, and this is causing havoc in the global marketplace.

Meanwhile, we have received some other very troubling news about the global economy over the past few days…

-The price of oil continues to collapse.  As I write this, the price of U.S. oil is down to $33.26 a barrel.  Those that follow my writing regularly already know that this is a really bad sign for the global economy.

-The Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low.  Global trade is absolutely imploding, and this is having a devastating impact on China and other major exporting nations.

-U.S. manufacturing is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession.  This is precisely what we would expect to see during the early stages of a new crisis.

-U.S. manufacturing imports are also contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession.  It appears that “the almighty U.S. consumer” is not going to save the global economy after all.

In 2015, trillions of dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally.  Now this new global financial crisis is picking up speed, and many of the “experts” seem absolutely stunned by what is happening.

But most of my readers are not surprised.  That is because I have been breaking down the signs that have been warning us of this new crisis in excruciating detail for months.  The financial carnage that we have witnessed around the globe this week is simply a logical progression of what has already been happening.

To be honest, though, even I have been stunned by what has happened in China this week.  I can’t say that I expected an emergency shutdown of the Chinese markets two times within the first four trading days of the year.

Panic and fear are beginning to grip the global marketplace, and once that starts to happen events become very difficult to predict.

Let us hope that things settle down soon, but I wouldn’t count on it.

As I have said before, 2016 is the year when everything changes, and we are going to see things take place over the next 12 months that are going to shock the world.

Is Glencore The Next Lehman? The World’s Largest Commodities Trading Company Is Toast

Toast - Public DomainAre we about to witness the most important global financial event since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008?  Glencore has been known as the largest commodities trading company on the entire planet, and at one time it was ranked as the 10th biggest company in the world.  It is linked to billions of dollars of derivatives trades globally, and if the firm were to implode it would be a financial disaster unlike anything that we have seen in Europe since the end of World War II.  Unfortunately, all signs are pointing to an inescapable death spiral for Glencore at this point.  The stock price was down nearly 30 percent on Monday, and overall Glencore stock has plunged nearly 80 percent since May.  There are certainly other candidates for “the next Lehman” (Petrobras and Deutsche Bank being two perfect examples), but Glencore has definitely surged to the front of the pack.  Right now many analysts are openly wondering if the firm will even be able to survive to the end of next month.

If you are not familiar with Glencore, the following is a pretty good summary of the commodity trading giant from Wikipedia

Glencore plc is an Anglo–Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, with its registered office in Saint Helier, Jersey. The company was created through a merger of Glencore with Xstrata on 2 May 2013. As of 2014, it ranked tenth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies. It is the world’s third-largest family business.

As Glencore International, the company was already one of the world’s leading integrated producers and marketers of commodities. It was the largest company in Switzerland and the world’s largest commodities trading company, with a 2010 global market share of 60 percent in the internationally tradeable zinc market, 50 percent in the internationally tradeable copper market, 9 percent in the internationally tradeable grain market and 3 percent in the internationally tradeable oil market.

For months, I have been warning about the consequences of the crash that we have been witnessing in commodity prices.  We saw a similar thing happen in 2008 just before the financial crisis that erupted in the fall of that year.  If commodity prices kept going down (which they did), it was only a matter of time before firms like Glencore started imploding.

At this point, Glencore owes almost twice as much money as the entire firm is worth

Now there is every chance the merged operation could implode. If it does, it will be the resources sector’s very own Lehman Brothers moment.

With debt approaching $US30 billion and a market value of just $US16 billion, shareholders and those holding the debt are desperately looking for an exit.

The cost of Glencore’s credit default swaps – a financial instrument that insures against a default – soared overnight.

Actually, “soared” is a horrible understatement.

The cost of insuring Glencore’s debt is absolutely screaming into the stratosphere.  This is precisely what we would expect to see right before a “Lehman Brothers moment”.  Here are some of the specific details from the Wall Street Journal

Investors had to pay on Monday more than $790,000 a year to insure $10 million of Glencore debt against default for five years using credit default swaps, according to Markit, more than 40% higher than Friday. At the beginning of the year, the same insurance cost $154,000.

When Glencore goes down, they will take a whole lot of others with them.  That is because Glencore is tied to trillions of dollars worth of derivatives trades all over the planet.  According to Zero Hedge, we are looking at “the start of a self-fulfilling prophecy which leads to the Companys’s IG downgrade and the collapse of trillions in derivative notionals as what may be the trading desk of the biggest commodity counterparty quietly goes out of business.”

For years I have been ranting about the danger of derivatives.  In article after article I warned that they would play a starring role in the next financial crisis.

Now the reality of what I was warning about is staring us right in the face.

The “nothing is happening” crowd is completely and utterly clueless.  There are these people running around telling everyone that the stock market decline is “over” and that we aren’t about to experience another great financial crisis.

I don’t understand how these people can be so ignorant.  Global giants such as Glencore, Petrobras and Deutsche Bank are imploding right in front of our eyes.  As I write this, stocks in Hong Kong are down 744 points and stocks in Japan are down 677 points.  The stock markets of the 10 largest economies on the entire planet are all crashing, but the mockers are going to continue to mock.  They will continue to tell you that “nothing is happening” even in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary.

And the sad thing is that many of these mockers are given air time on the big mainstream news networks.  They will tell you that stocks are “oversold” and that you should “buy the dip” because stocks are going to be going back to record highs really soon.

I wish that was true.  Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that we are finally witnessing the bursting of the last great global financial bubble.  I really like how Bill Holter put it recently

In my opinion we are already well within the jaws of a meltdown/shutdown as liquidity is evaporating. There are a dozen developed countries with their stock markets already in bear markets (down 20% or more). All crashes come from oversold levels just as bank runs come on fast and are a surprise at the time. What is coming should be NO SURPRISE to anyone as we are looking at the end of not only an empire but of a flawed system which has endured for far too many years! This was a solvency problem in 2008 and “liquidity” was the incorrect tool used then. Now it is a bigger solvency problem with an illiquidity kicker attached …while the Fed has already used every tool imaginable and every last ounce of credibility. The loss of confidence in the issuer of the world’s reserve currency would be bad enough in an unlevered world, the loss of confidence in today’s “debt world” will be a DISASTER!

To wrap this up, do not let anything that may happen from here surprise you. The conditions are ripe for global currency crises and a shutdown of credit. The conditions are also ripe for hot war to explode in multiple venues. A meltdown or shutdown of markets will serve as a FINAL FLUSH of what remains left of the U.S. middle class.

We are steamrolling toward a global economic collapse that will be permanent and irreversible.

For months, I have been warning that we were witnessing a textbook example of what the lead up to a major financial crisis looks like, and now it is happening.  All of this was completely and totally predictable for those that were willing to look at the signs.

Unfortunately, there are way too many people out there that think that they know it all and that have a tremendous amount of blind faith in the system.

Now the system is failing, and that blind faith is about to be shattered.

The Odds Are Never In Our Favor

Flash BoysHow would you feel if you went to the store to buy something, and someone rushed ahead of you and purchased it first and then sold it to you at a higher price?  Well, in the financial world this happens millions upon millions of times.  In fact, this practice has become so popular that it has spawned an entire industry known as “high frequency trading”.  At this point, high frequency trading makes up about half of all trading volume on Wall Street, and it is costing the rest of us billions of dollars a year.  And the funny thing is that this is all perfectly legal.  High frequency trading firms are exploiting a glitch in the system, and by allowing this to go on, the authorities have essentially given them a license to steal from the rest of us.  Sadly, this is just another example that shows that the odds are never in our favor.  The “little guy” never seems to be able to win, and those at the top of the food chain like it that way.

Making money in the stock market is supposed to be about making wise investment decisions.  It isn’t supposed to be about finding a glitch in a video game and exploiting it.  But that is essentially what these high frequency traders have done.  They have spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy figuring out ways to make pennies (or sometimes just fractions of a penny) on the trades that the rest of us make.

Fortunately, this practice was exposed in front of the entire world by 60 Minutes the other night.  Steve Kroft interviewed a former trader named Michael Lewis that just released a new book entitled “Flash Boys” that is all about the evils of high frequency trading.  The following is an excerpt from that interview…

Steve Kroft: And this is all being done by computers?

Michael Lewis: All being done by computers. It’s too fast to be done by humans. Humans have been completely removed from the marketplace.

“Fast” is the operative word. Machines with secret programs are now trading stocks in tiny fractions of a second, way too fast to be seen or recorded on a stock ticker or computer screen. Faster than the market itself. High-frequency traders, big Wall Street firms and stock exchanges have spent billions to gain an advantage of a millisecond for themselves and their customers, just to get a peek at stock market prices and orders a flash before everyone else, along with the opportunity to act on it.

Michael Lewis: The insiders are able to move faster than you. They’re able to see your order and play it against other orders in ways that you don’t understand. They’re able to front run your order.

Steve Kroft: What do you mean front run?

Michael Lewis: Means they’re able to identify your desire to, to buy shares in Microsoft and buy ’em in front of you and sell ’em back to you at a higher price. It all happens in infinitesimally small periods of time. There’s speed advantage that the faster traders have is milliseconds, some of it is fractions of milliseconds. But it”s enough for them to identify what you’re gonna do and do it before you do it at your expense.

Steve Kroft: So it drives the price up.

Michael Lewis: So it drives the price up, and in turn you pay a higher price.

You can watch the entire interview right here.  Unlike most mainstream media news reports, this one is actually worth your time.  I have watched the entire thing, and I highly recommend it.

Of course there have been many that have been screaming about high frequency trading for many years.  Zero Hedge is just one example.  This practice has gone on year after year and the federal government has looked the other way.

These high frequency trading firms do not add anything to society.  As Barry Ritholtz noted recently, one of these firms has an average holding period for stocks of just 11 seconds, and at one point it stated that it had “not had a losing day of trading in four years“…

The only surprising thing about Lewis’s assertion was that anyone could be even remotely surprised by it.

The math on trading is simple: It is a zero-sum game. One trader’s gain is another trader’s loss. Only in the case of HFT, the losers are the investors — by way of their pension funds, retirement accounts and institutional funds. The HFT’s take — the “skim” — comes out of these large institution’s trade executions.

The technology behind HFT may be complex, but the math is that simple. Once the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed stock exchanges to share with traders all of the unexecuted incoming orders, it was hard not to make money by skimming a few cents or fractions of a cent from each trade. Several years ago, the founder of Tradebot, one of the biggest high-frequency firms, had said that the firm had “not had a losing day of trading in four years.” The firm’s average holding period for stocks is 11 seconds.

How in the world does that kind of behavior add any value to society?

They are just skimming money that should be going to others.  Billions of dollars is essentially being stolen from pension funds and retirement accounts, and it is time that people started getting outraged about this.

Unfortunately, even if this practice is outlawed, the truth is that the odds will still never be in our favor.

There are millions of Americans that dream of getting ahead, but they never seem to be able to get there.  They work incredibly hard, but the more they earn, the more the government taxes them.  If somehow you do manage to scrape together a little bit of money to invest in the financial markets, any profits that you make will be endlessly eroded by fees, commissions and even more taxes.

And it is important to remember that in the financial world, the “little guy” is regarded as easy prey by the hungry wolves that are all too eager to find a way to transfer your money into their own pockets.  If you don’t know what you are doing, it is all too easy to get absolutely slaughtered.

On Wall Street, there are winners and there are losers.

Most of the time, “the little guys” end up losing.

But at least they could try to have a system that at least has the appearance of fairness.  As long as high frequency trading exists, that will never be the case.

Flash Boys

 

They Actually Expect Us To Have Faith In These Financial Markets After This Week?

NASDAQ MarketSite TV studio - Photo by Luis Villa del CampoWhat in the world is happening to our financial markets?  Trading on the Nasdaq was halted on Thursday for more than 3 hours, and the only formal explanation that we got was that it was a “technical issue”.  On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs made thousands of “erroneous trades” that are now being canceled.  If those trades had not been canceled, it could have cost Goldman “hundreds of millions of dollars” according to the Wall Street Journal.  How nice for them that they get a “do over”.  When Knight Capital made a similar “trading error”, they were not so fortunate.  Our financial system has become completely and totally dependent on computers, and that means that it is extremely vulnerable.  After what we have witnessed this week, how can they actually expect us to have faith in these financial markets?  And what happens if these “technical issues” get even worse?

The stoppage on the Nasdaq on Thursday was unprecedented.  Trading in literally thousands of stocks and options was halted.  Big names like Apple, Netflix, Intel and Facebook were affected.

As of right now, officials are not telling us what caused the “technical issue”, but there are rumblings that hacking was involved.

And the Nasdaq would hardly be the first exchange to be hacked.  In fact, according to NBC News, about half of all the security exchanges around the world were hacked last year.

USA Today is suggesting that a group of Iranian hackers known as “Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam” may be responsible for what happened to the Nasdaq.  Apparently they have been quite active since last September…

The first wave of denial-of-service attacks attributed to the Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam began last September and lasted about six weeks. Knocked offline for various periods of time were Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and PNC Bank.

The second wave commenced in December and lasted seven weeks, knocking out mid-tier banks and credit unions.

And a third wave of high-powered denial-of-service attacks commenced in March targeting credit card companies and financial brokerages.

But of course the Iranians have not been the only ones hacking financial institutions.  According to Gartner banking security analyst Avivah Litan, some “profit-minded hackers” have had quite a bit of success attacking U.S. banks…

More recently, a copycat group of profit-minded hackers has conducted denial-of-service attacks against certain U.S. banks as a smoke screen to divert attention while they execute an Ocean’s 11-style wire transfer fraud.

Litan earlier this month blogged about that caper. These bad guys, she says, set into motion sophisticated denial-of-service attacks that overwhelmed pretty sturdy bank network security. While tech staff labored manually to get the banks’ websites back into service, the crooks scrambled behind the scenes to extract funds from a bank employee’s privileged account, which they had gained access to.

Instead of getting into one customer account at a time, the criminals used the employee’s account to control the master payment switch for wire transfers, and moved as much money as they could from as many accounts as possible for as long as possible, Litan reports.

“Considerable financial damage has resulted from these attacks,” says Litan.

However, let’s certainly not blame all of the “technical issues” in the financial markets on hackers.  What happened to Goldman Sachs on Tuesday appears to be very much their own fault

A programming error at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. caused unintended stock-option orders to flood American exchanges this morning, roiling markets and shaking confidence in electronic trading infrastructure.

An internal system that Goldman Sachs uses to help prepare to meet market demand for equity options inadvertently produced orders with inaccurate price limits and sent them to exchanges, said a person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The size of the losses depends on which trades are canceled, the person said. Some have already been voided, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Of course if those trades had made hundreds of millions of dollars for Goldman they would have been allowed to stand.

But because Goldman was about to lose hundreds of millions of dollars authorities worked very rapidly to start “breaking” those trades.

This is just another example that shows how much of a joke our financial system has become.

Wall Street has become a massive computerized casino, and at some point this fraudulent house of cards is going to come crashing down hard.

The seeds for all of this were planted back in the late 1990s.  The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed and the big banks started to go hog wild.

And according to an absolutely shocking memo uncovered by investigative reporter Greg Palast, a certain U.S. Treasury official was at the heart of the plot to make this possible…

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.

The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3 percent unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger in Greece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.

The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank.

If Summers and U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin had not been working so hard for the benefit of the big banks, we might not be facing a quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble today…

The year was 1997. US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was pushing hard to de-regulate banks. That required, first, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to dismantle the barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. It was like replacing bank vaults with roulette wheels.

Second, the banks wanted the right to play a new high-risk game: “derivatives trading”. JP Morgan alone would soon carry $88 trillion of these pseudo-securities on its books as “assets”.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers (soon to replace Rubin as Secretary) body-blocked any attempt to control derivatives.

But what was the use of turning US banks into derivatives casinos if money would flee to nations with safer banking laws?

The answer conceived by the Big Bank Five: eliminate controls on banks in every nation on the planet — in one single move. It was as brilliant as it was insanely dangerous.

To learn more about how they used the WTO to transform the global financial system into a gigantic casino, head on over and read the rest of Palast’s outstanding article right here.

And you know what is truly frightening?

Larry Summers appears to be Barack Obama’s top choice to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

That statement should send chills up your spine.

The truth is that Larry Summers should not even be running a Dairy Queen, much less the most powerful financial institution on the planet.

If Larry Summers becomes the next head of the Federal Reserve, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

But it looks like that is exactly what we are going to get.

We are rapidly heading toward the next major global financial crisis, and on top of everything else we will probably have Larry Summers running things soon.

What a nightmare.

22 Stats That Show How The Emerging One World Economy Is Absolutely Killing American Workers

For decades our politicians have promised us that the “free trade” agenda would bring us greater prosperity than ever before.  They insisted that merging our economy into the emerging one world economy would cause millions upon millions of new jobs to be added to the U.S. economy.  Unfortunately, it was all a giant lie.  Trading with other countries is not a bad thing as long as the level of trade is fairly equal on both sides.  When trade becomes very unequal, the consequences can be absolutely catastrophic.  Since 1975, the United States has bought more than 8 trillion dollars more stuff from the rest of the world than they have bought from us.  We are the only economy on earth that could have had 8 trillion dollars drained out of it and still be standing.  Instead of leaving the country, those 8 trillion dollars could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers.  If we could go back and have a “do over”, how much more prosperous would we be today if we had kept that 8 trillion dollars inside the country?

But instead of pursuing a balanced trade philosophy, our politicians were so enamored with the emerging one world economy that they threw all caution to the wind.

So we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth.

And this emerging one world economy is absolutely killing American workers.  It lumps them into a global labor pool with workers in other countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

Just think of it this way.  Imagine that you are a giant corporation that makes “widgets”.  You can make them in the United States, but you would have to pay your workers about $10 an hour, provide them with a whole bunch of benefits, pay very high taxes, and comply with a dizzying array of laws, rules and regulations.

Or, you could set up shop on the other side of the world where you could pay your workers a dollar an hour.  Those workers would receive no benefits and you would have to deal with very little red tape.

Which would you choose?

The “giant sucking sound” that Ross Perot once warned us about has become a reality.  Big employers are competing with one another to see who can outsource jobs the fastest, and American workers are the big losers in all of this.

As I wrote about the other day, right now there are some American workers that are actually personally training their replacements from overseas how to do their jobs.

If nothing is done about this, jobs are going to continue to pour out of high wage countries such as the United States and into low wage countries on the other side of the globe, and big corporations are going to keep laughing all the way to the bank as unemployment in America gets even worse.

The following are 22 stats that show how the emerging one world economy is absolutely killing American workers….

#1 One professor has estimated that cutting the U.S. trade deficit in half would create 5 million more jobs in the United States.

#2 The United States has a trade imbalance that is more than 7 times larger than any other nation on earth has.

#3 Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the globe since 1975.  That 8 trillion dollars could have gone to support U.S. businesses and pay the wages of U.S. workers.  Federal, state and local taxes would have been paid on that 8 trillion dollars if it had stayed in the United States.  This is one reason why our national debt is getting ready to cross the 16 trillion dollar mark.

#4 When NAFTA was passed in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.  In 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.

#5 In 2001, American consumers spent 102 billion dollars on products made in China.  In 2011, American consumers spent 399 billion dollars on products made in China.

#6 The Chinese undervalue their currency by about 40 percent in order to gain a critical advantage over foreign competitors.  This means that many Chinese companies are able to absolutely thrive while their competition in the United States goes out of business.  The following is from a recent Fox News article….

To keep Chinese products artificially inexpensive on US store shelves, Beijing undervalues the yuan by 40 percent. It pirates US technology, subsidizes exports and imposes high tariffs on imports.

#7 According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to all the tariffs.

#8 The U.S. trade deficit with China during 2011 was 295.4 billion dollars.  That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

#9 Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was only about 6 million dollars (million with an “m”) for the entire year.

#10 U.S. consumers spend about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that Chinese consumers spend on goods and services from the United States.

#11 The United States has actually lost an average of about 50,000 manufacturing jobs a month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

#12 According to the Economic Policy Institute, America is losing about half a million jobs to China every single year.

#13 The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

#14 During 2010 alone, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities closed their doors in America every single day.

#15 Since the auto industry bailout, approximately 70 percent of all GM vehicles have been built outside the United States.

#16 As I have written about previously, 95 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were middle class jobs.

#17 According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue.

#18 The percentage of working age Americans that are employed right now is actually smaller than it was at the end of the last recession.

#19 The average duration of unemployment in the United States is nearly three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.

#20 Due in part to the globalization of the labor pool, only about 24 percent of all jobs in the United States are “good jobs” at this point.

#21 Without enough good jobs, more Americans than ever before are falling into poverty.  Today, more than 100 million Americans are on welfare.

#22 In recent years the U.S. economy has embraced “free trade” and the emerging one world economy like never before.  Instead of increasing the number of jobs in our economy, it has resulted in the worst stretch of job creation in the United States in modern history….

If any single number captures the state of the American economy over the last decade, it is zero. That was the net gain in jobs between 1999 and 2009—nada, nil, zip. By painful contrast, from the 1940s through the 1990s, recessions came and went, but no decade ended without at least a 20 percent increase in the number of jobs.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

You can get a really good idea of how nightmarish the manufacturing job losses have been in the United States over the past 40 years by checking out this map right here.

And if everything posted above was not bad enough, some U.S. companies even find themselves competing with slave labor here in the United States.

Seriously.

Prison labor is absolutely destroying some businesses here in America.  The following comes from a recent CNN article….

Unicor is a government-run enterprise that employs over 13,000 inmates — at wages as low as 23 cents an hour — to make goods for the Pentagon and other federal agencies.

With some exceptions, Unicor gets first dibs on federal contracts over private companies as long as its bid is comparable in price, quantity and delivery. In other words: If Unicor wants a contract, it gets it.

One company that tries to compete with Unicor has been forced to lay off 150 people over the years because they lose so many contracts to them….

Wilson has been competing with Unicor for 20 years. He’s an executive at American Apparel Inc., an Alabama company that makes military uniforms. (It is not affiliated with the international retailer of the same name.) He has gone head-to-head with Unicor on just about every product his company makes — and said he has laid off 150 people over the years as a result.

“We pay employees $9 on average,” Wilson said. “They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.”

But this is also the kind of thing that U.S. companies are dealing with when they try to compete with big corporations that are exploiting cheap labor abroad.

If you are spending ten times as much on labor as your competitor is, it is going to be really hard to survive.

That is why it has become so hard to find products that are made in America.

Most of our jobs these days are low paying “service jobs”, cushy government jobs or jobs where people push papers around all day.

But those kinds of jobs do not create lasting wealth for a country.

Did you know that there are more tax preparers in the United States than there are police officers and firefighters combined?

Our economy is a giant mirage.  We consume way more wealth than we produce, but we are able to keep the party going because we are riding the biggest debt spiral the world has ever seen.

But at some point the debt spiral is going to end and the crash is going to come.

Until then, however, those at the very top are still really enjoying themselves.

For example, one of the latest trends is for rich kids to show off pictures of themselves enjoying their enormous wealth on Instagram.

Something has gone very, very wrong with this country.

So what do you think about all this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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